Otaru Snow Light Path Festival

Walk through a lighted fantasy of snow

By Serena Ogawa    - 3 min read
Venue: Otaru Canal When: Feb 9th - Feb 16th 2020 , 5:00pm - 9:00pm

This winter, head to the city of Otaru—a short 45-minute ride from Sapporo—for a light-up show unlike any other. The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival spreads from Otaru Canal to the Former Temiya Railway Line area too. From a dreamy Milky Way canal of lights to the pathway of lights, you are sure to fall in love with this wintery scene. This heart-melting festival of lights is held for 8 days in early to mid-February.

The romantic Milky Way of lights in the Otaru Canal (Photo: Varsha Vaswati)
The romantic Milky Way of lights in the Otaru Canal (Photo: Varsha Vaswati)

Walk only 10 minutes from the station toward the Unga Kaijo area along the canal and bask in the glow of thousands of candles illuminating the way. Afloat in the canal, you’ll see buoyed lanterns bobbing peacefully on the waters as well. The Temiya Railway Line Kaijo is the smaller of the two, but no less enchanting with its 1880s railroad architecture. Even though the path is only about 300 meters long, it’s a breathtaking sight.

Wintery romance awaits in this light display (Photo: Varsha Vaswati)
Wintery romance awaits in this light display (Photo: Varsha Vaswati)

Candles are placed inside of snow and ice sculptures, lighting them up with a soft-orange light akin to a flickering ember. It’s estimated that over 1.2 million candles will decorate the festival before it ends. You can even add your own candle to the path. The theme changes yearly making every year a different experience. You’ll see candle displays by local residents and businesses. The gentle light of the candles will surely warm up your winter walk through this festive town.

Snow and Ice play together in front of the candle light (Photo: Illaura Rossiter)
Snow and Ice play together in front of the candle light (Photo: Illaura Rossiter)

Cherish the dreamy and romantic vision of this special kind of illumination. The whole event is run by local volunteers and the handmade displays create a place where you can feel free to reflect quietly on life. You’ll want to visit early in the evening as candles are lit at 5 pm and go out from 8:30 to 9 pm. The snow candle festival runs for about 8 days during the same period as the Sapporo Snow Festival, so why not visit both?

Playful displays of snow cups lit from inside (Photo: Kylie Plester)
Playful displays of snow cups lit from inside (Photo: Kylie Plester)

More info

Find out more about Otaru Canal

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Serena Ogawa

Serena Ogawa @serena.ogawa

Travel Editor for Japan Travel by day, novel-writing cat lady by night.

Join the discussion

Sleiman Azizi a week ago
Geez, that would be such a nice experience.
Serena Ogawa Author a week ago
It's too pretty not to visit.
Lynda Hogan a week ago
Another incentive to get myself to Hokkaido sooner rather than later!
Serena Ogawa Author a week ago
Me too!
Kim B a week ago
What a way to celebrate winter!
Serena Ogawa Author a week ago
It's a unique festival for sure.
Elena Lisina a week ago
Yes, it's amazing!